Murphy Messenger -
Neighbor to Neighbor - Do I Need a Permit For That?
Margaret Malone
By Margaret Malone
Published on 07/17/2008

My dad once bought me a book titled Bureaucrats and How to Annoy Them. Its author was a wonderful, wildly eccentric English astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore. Pa loved the mischievous Sir Patrick and had a love-hate relationship with the machineries of state. He regarded the book as an essential to the education of his firstborn. It contained tips like filing your tax return in Welsh (an official language, by the bones of St. David!).

It was to Sir Patrick that I turned, at first, when asked to write about Things You Didn’t Know You Needed a Permit For. And then I thought again and realized that all things exist for a reason. In the case of the sundry permits required by city ordinance, said reason is to raise the bar and promote good standards of quality.

Contrary to abiding folk wisdom, city permits are a good thing in general, not the products of faceless Borg-O-Crats who want to assimilate you and your wallet. Granted, some of them may eventually result in an increase in your ad valorem taxes (pool and remodeling permits, for example), because they record projects that increase the value of your property. But that’s only a small part of the picture; having rebuilt more than half my house since moving here, I will say the tax impact is pretty low.

The ordinances that require permits for certain activities are developed by the City staff? with the collaboration, deliberation and approval of Council. That means, ultimately, that they are influenced by public opinion. Permits and registrations are, therefore, among the fine-point tools of the common interest in any community. They reflect consensus, as do the rest of the City’s codes of ordinances.

Here’s a plain-talk rundown of common activities for which a permit or some other kind of official record is needed, with some references into City Codes where appropriate. The circumstances and details vary depending on your zoning district and the individual activity, but hopefully there aren’t too many surprises in here. Anyone with questions can look up the ordinance cited at or contact the City Secretary to obtain copies of ordinances (per-page fees apply). You can also talk to the Community Development Department at 972-468-4040.

To view?these ordinances, click on "Full Story"?

Construction in General
Building contractors are responsible for registering themselves with the City before they start working for you. If they don’t comply they risk being fined and banned from working in Murphy at all. Any decent contractor knows the permit requirements for construction projects and understands the regulations involved. Rebuilding a shower, for example, is subject to specifications—codes— that ensure the construction is water- and mold-proof. Adding a new room is subject to codes that ensure your house doesn’t fall over. Electrical inspections…well, you wouldn’t want to get zapped when you plug in your nose-hair clippers, if you get my drift. A construction permit is a protective quality-assurance device.

Fences (Sections 18-299 and 86-782)
Good fences make good neighbors, as the saying goes. But it’s not that simple, so fence and wall building in the City requires a permit for new fencing or more than 25% of an existing fence. Fences intended to enclose large animals, for example, are subject to different regulations than those enclosing an average family lot. Section 18-299 provides specifications for normal residential fencing and the materials used to build it; the Animal Code provides additional requirements for housing livestock. Fence construction is also subject to City inspection and that’s a good thing.

Garage Sales (Section 22-401)
You can really make a nuisance of yourself by bending the garage sale concept. For that reason, you’re only allowed three in any calendar year and you must have a permit first. You can’t buy or manufacture merchandise purely for sale in this way, and you can’t run a garage sale for more than three consecutive days. There is no fee for a garage sale permit, which is easily obtained from City Hall (unless you don’t live in Murphy, in which case No Dice). Your permit must be displayed throughout the sale.

Pools (Sections 18-161–167)
If you’re going to drop 30 grand on a pool and its required enclosing fence, a permit is not only needed, it’s as good a decision as selecting a reputable contractor. Anything that combines big holes in the ground, tons of concrete, electrical wiring, plumbing and your family at least deserves a professional inspection.

Storage Sheds (Section 86-762)
If you want to construct a shed, you’ll need a permit for that too. Even if the shed is one of those nice rustic-looking prefabricated ones from Lowe’s. In the rear yard, the shed can be no closer than 10 feet to the side or rear yard and no closer than 10 feet from the house.

Signs (Section 86-415 for House-Sale Signs)
You don’t need a permit for this, but be sure your house-for-sale sign complies with City code. Roadside signage codes are intended to keep the community looking tidy and prevent obstruction of visibility on the roads. Regulations apply to all kinds of temporary signs, including those for garage sales and parties or other events.
Security/Fire Alarms (Section 6-1)

Alarm systems are great when properly operated and maintained. Every security alarm system in the City must be registered with the P.D. every year. Alarms that go wrong not only cause disturbance of the peace; they also waste police time. Alarms operating without a permit will get you a $159 fine.